SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “Why is it that every time the SXM Government finds itself in financial difficulties, that the first set of people to be affected are teachers and civil servants?” Claire Elshot – Aventurin, President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) said on Monday in a press statement.
“How many times has WITU given you alternatives to touching our members’ monies?
“How can you touch the people’s pockets, yet not touch yours? Set the example! You want us to tighten our belts, then you tighten yours! Show your care for your essential workers by regulating their salaries, regulating food prices and doing whatever is necessary to make your Country people comfortable and happy to come to work.
How can you increase the workload of your most important people, people who kept the Country running during a pandemic, then – as a thank you - take food from their families’ mouths by reducing their vacation pay?
“The implications of civil servants and teachers not receiving these monies is that additional financial strain, on top of the workload, is placed on them.
“Do you think it’s right that we depend so much on a vacation allowance that is never used for actual vacation? Do you think it is correct to use that extra money to make sure our children are fed and clothed for the new school year? School fees and insurance are paid? Sadly, we depend so much on this extra income. But it’s a reality. And as a government, you are failing in showing your Country and its people that you really care about them.
“Your actions thus far continue to show a lack of empathy and love for your most important Country people. You refuse to set the example by cutting costs from your level, and refuse to make SXM a country we can be proud of.
“Instead, you continue to work illegally and slyly, putting worker against worker, and caring for no one but yourself. STOP IT!
“Listen to the unions when they tell you what you’re doing is illegal. Read the letters sent continuously to you that you do not read. Read and respond and see what they’re saying. Consider what they’re saying. STOP touching teachers’ and civil servants’ money. STOP it! Start being creative by finding other ways to generate money.
“SXM is a cash cow! There’s money there but you’re too scared to implement measures to collect. Why? Could it be because you have a hand in certain pots? Why must you always touch our monies and expect us to smile and make do? How can we? Have you taken any cuts? Have you tightened your belts? NO!
“The combined might of WICSU, NAPB, ABVO, and WITU unions sent a June 12 letter to Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs stating 6 points. Most notable among these points was the reminder of the fact that Government has again failed to live up to its obligation to pay the remaining 3% to civil servants this year; that the Finance Minister, in a recent press conference failed to confirm that Govt will comply, instead talking about how Govt is operating on a month-by-month basis. Was this his way of telling us we should be grateful we’re getting our regular salaries?
“The letter also prompts them to remember that they like reminding the Netherlands of their legal and financial obligations to Country St. Maarten, and now we must remind you of your legal and financial obligations to your workers. The long and the short is that there is no legal basis for any of this! The law does not permit the government to withhold or postpone payments of the vacation allowance.
“Even school boards have noted the illegality of this act, and further stated that such a move can and will affect the quality and effectiveness of education here. Not to mention, this will also affect worker and teacher morale.
“IS that what you want? Why haven’t you taken our suggestions for further cost-cutting measures that don’t affect our members? Why isn’t there a significant decrease in the Ministers’ and parliamentarians’ allowances? In fact, according to the so-called draft budget, it just looks like you guys are shuffling around your so-called expenses and not truly cutting or reducing at your level.
“Take into account the type of precedent these actions are setting.
- The constant disregard and disconnection of any advice stemming from the C.C.S.U.
2. The constant lack of respect for all civil servants.
3. The constant ostracizing of teachers in civil servants matters
4. The constant violation and overriding of laws
5. The underlying disregard of position that blatantly put stakeholders in a position to operate in a compromising manner that affects their members unjustly.
“Take a page from New Zealand, whose Prime Minister announced 20% cuts to their Ministers and Parliaments salaries, and assuring essential workers (including teachers and civil servants) who kept the country running during lockdown that not a cent of their earnings will be touched. You might learn something there,” Claire Elshot – Aventurin
President of the WITU concludes.